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Jewish boys fly SA flag high at Futsal World Cup

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Four years ago, neither Jordan Arelisky nor Aaron Isserow could have imagined that that they would be competing in a World Cup. Yet, in just over a week, they will be representing South Africa at the AMF Boys U/20 Futsal World Cup in Valledupar, Colombia.
by SAUL KAMIONSKY | Nov 08, 2018

Herzlia High School Grade 10s, Arelisky and Isserow (both 16) are good friends, and are two of the 10 boys selected for the squad that will be playing in the tournament from 17 to 26 November.

Both teens began training with Maccabi soccer when they were seven-years-old, but later their then coach, Ronen Cohen, encouraged them to play futsal.

To succeed in futsal, the teens say, you need to train harder and longer because you need to be very fit, even more than an outdoor football player.

Futsal is an indoor version of soccer played on a hard surface. It is played on a smaller court than a soccer field, and has very different rules to soccer. Quick movement and quick thinking are essential criteria to succeed.

There are only five members per team on the court, so the players have a lot of ground to cover.

These two have made their mark in this sport, and now train every Sunday with Maccabi.

Arelisky and Isserow have both captained the under-16 Maccabi futsal team that won bronze in the Maccabi games last year. Isserow, who plays right forward, scored six goals during the tournament.

They now also play futsal at their school, Herzlia. If fact, it became one of the school’s main sports due to the drought in Cape Town preventing the upkeep of outdoor soccer fields.

Byron Cottle, the boys’ futsal coach, who is taking them to the World Cup, is a member of the national team. Arelisky also plays with him in the men’s league on a Monday night.

Arelisky and Isserow also attribute their futsal success to Reon Siyaya and Ronen Cohen, who are both part of the Maccabi coaching team.

At the World Cup, they will be competing against a diverse range of countries as South Africa was drawn in Group B alongside India, Australia, and hosts Columbia.

Gary Waldrugh, the General Secretary of the South African Futsal Federation, is optimistic about the team’s chances. “We have a very good chance of getting through the first round. We also stand a good chance against Australia and India,” he said.

However, Waldrugh said the boys’ biggest challenge will be when they play the host nation in the first round in front of what is sure to be a capacity crowd in the 12 000-seater stadium. “These boys are not used to playing in front of crowds like that, but the boys are strong, and they have been selected based on their ability and discipline.”

Isserow said their opponents were “top-quality”, but he is excited about the tournament nevertheless. Arelisky is particularly weary of the threat that the South American teams pose. “The South Americans are very quick, and they are very good at the sport,” he said.

Isserow and Arelisky are following in the footsteps of Jewish futsal player, Russell Goldstein, who was a part of England’s futsal team when it won the Four-Nations tournament in 2017.

Arelisky’s mom, Vanessa, said: “Going to the World Cup is a great opportunity and experience for the boys, and it is an honour. It was a very difficult decision for Jordan to make, because he is in Grade 10, but the school has been unbelievable, allowing the boys to write exams in the core subjects before they leave.”

In the meantime, the boys are packing, and getting ready to make their international debut.


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